Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Update and A Brief Description

It has been one week since my first chemo treatment, and this is the best I’ve felt in two months.  I’m not skipping down the halls or anything since I found taking a midmorning nap in the library very necessary, but things are looking up.  I no longer need to take extended breaks to lie down in lab due to back pain caused by 5 minutes of minor bench work.  I can walk around at ease instead of having to sit down outside Qdoba to take a breather in the middle of my 4 block walk to work.  The best part is that my appetite is back.  I hit a new weight low last week at 145 lbs, and I’m hoping to gain some back before I start chemo again in two weeks.  Waking up early for the blood count to see when I could do chemo next and the disappointing results was a large contributing factor to the nap. 

My oncologist, Dr. Van Tine, was hoping I could start the next round on Monday, but my white blood cell count was too low when they checked this morning.  I think he saw a bit of disappointment in my face since he then half-jokingly mentioned I would probably need a bone marrow transplant if we kept it at two weeks.  Longer intermissions between chemo will mean a longer treatment time course, but it might help me keep a little normalcy to life.  It also means I will be able to finish out an experiment on Tuesday that I started this week, which I’m happy about as well.  (It’s been a little boring in lab lately without any experiments in the works to provide ambiguous results).

Now that we’re updated, I wanted to explain a little about my cancer.  Ewing’s sarcoma is considered a rare cancer and is a part of a larger group of cancers known (creatively) as the Ewing family of tumors.  According to uncited statistics, I am 1 out of 250ish people that will be diagnosed with this cancer this year.  It is largely considered a childhood cancer since most cases pop up during early adolescence.  However, the different varieties of Ewing’s can present themselves at various points in life. 

Ewing’s sarcoma is a lot different than more the prevalent breast, lung, colon, etc cancers out there.  There are no known risk factors or carcinogens like smoking or obesity that cause Ewing’s.  There are not any genes that are passed down which would predispose me or anyone else for Ewing’s.  It was a freak genetic mutation in one of my cells (probably a bone cell).  One chunk of DNA (the EWS gene of chromosome 22) broke off and attached itself to another chunk of DNA (the FLI1 gene of chromosome 11) to form a new fusion gene (the EWS/FLI fusion gene).  This cell then proceeded to divide uninhibited by the usual constraints to form a tumor.  Some of these cancerous cells then broke off from the original tumor (probably in my ribs) to metastasize and find homes in my vertebrae and pelvis.  This is the very simple version, but the sad thing is that we do know much about this new gene, what it is specifically doing, or how to specifically treat it.   So while we wait for new research to come out, I’ll be having my cancer cells killed the generic way of chemicals, radiation, and ice. 

*I am putting up some pictures to liven up the blog.  A few regular ones since my lab mates told me the current format was depressing and a few scans since I think they are cool to look at.


  1. glad you are feeling better! the scans are cool to look at although except the one showing the lungs, I'm not sure what the tumors look like. are they the white spots?
    many prayers are going your way! :)

  2. Yes, the tumors are the big white spots. The top picture is a PET scan with my chest, vertebrae, and pelvic tumors lighting up. My brain, kidneys, and bladder also come up strongly. The middle picture is a MRI cross section of my chest tumor in white. The bottom is my 1st MRI where you can faintly see my chest tumor in the left side of the picture (my right since I am facing up in the picture).

  3. Greg,
    My day is filled with prayer for you. I hope you don't mind that I shared your blog with the teacher staff and the parents of my students. All are praying and are impressed with your attitude. Hang in there. With love.